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Category:    Home > Reviews > Musical > Backstage > Biopic > Comedy > Slapstick > Satire > Western > Screwball > Dancing > Funny Girl (1968/Sony Blu-ray)/Kid Millions (1934)/Whoopee (1930/Warner Archive DVDs)

Funny Girl (1968/Sony Blu-ray)/Kid Millions (1934)/Whoopee (1930/Warner Archive DVDs)


Picture: B/C+/C     Sound: B/C+/C+     Extras: C+/D/D     Films: B/B-/C+



PLEASE NOTE: Whoopee and Kid Millions are only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below, while Funny Girl is available everywhere.



Along with sound, the other thing that eventually made the Musical was color and we have three of them that offer three different versions of Technicolor that shows how it helped make the genre even greater.



Towards the end of the reign of Hollywood Musicals, many studios made bad ones trying to cash in on Fox’s megahit success with The Sound Of Music (1965), but this led to more misses and big bombs than hits.  However, William Wyler had never made a film in the genre when he helmed Funny Girl in 1968 and it was the feature film debut of Barbra Streisand, who played the real life role of Fanny Brice in the hit Broadway stage version.  The film was a huge hit permanently cementing Columbia major studio status and Streisand’s star continued to climb.


The film stars with her reflecting on her life at the Ziegfeld Theater, then goes into flashback for the whole film from her days at home living above the family shop in a poor section of New York to her big break with Florenz Ziegfeld (Walter Pidgeon) to finding sudden romance with a businessman (Omar Sharif) to her unorthodox hit success.  People”, “My Man”, “Don’t Rain On My Parade” and “Second Hand Rose” are among the classics she sings and Wyler makes this as much of an effective drama as he does a fine musical.


A backstage musical overall, it subtly deconstructs the genre throughout and Streisand instantly proves she can carry a film.  Save a few missteps, this was the beginning of her second career (after singing) as one of the top female movie stars of the era.  Kay Medford is convincing as her mother, one-time Betty Boop Mae Questel and Penny Stanton as family friends, Anne Francis a best friend and that is Elaine Joyce as a chorus girl.  Isobel Lennart turned her own stage book into the film’s screenplay, Ray Stark (who would later co-own Columbia Pictures for a time) co-produced the film and future feature film director Herbert Ross did all the choreography.


It is a long film at 155 Minutes (this is the roadshow version with an intermission, et al), but it never feels that way because once it gets started, it just keeps moving and is effective filmmaking all around with a great cast, some great chemistry between the actors and it has aged very, very well.  Hard to believe Oliver! beat this film for the Best Picture Oscar or that Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey also missed that prize in general, but that is how rich the competition was then.  Even if you are not a Streisand fan, Funny Girl is a great film musical and one of the last before the genre was finished.  If you like or live Streisand, you’ll be buying this Blu-ray ASAP.


Extras include trailers for other Sony releases (but none for this film and two vintage featurettes in standard definition used to sell this film: Barbra In Movieland and This Is Streisand.



About 4 decades before, when the real Brice was so popular and Ziegfeld was a top show business name, records and radio for singers and stage performers would be enhanced by motion pictures and following Al Jolson and The Jazz Singer (1927, see the Blu-ray elsewhere on this site), we had Eddie Cantor, now best known for showing up as a regular part of the HBO hit series Boardwalk Empire.  He started making films for Paramount, then started working for Samuel Goldwyn and lately, Warner Bros. has picked up the rights to a huge part of the Goldwyn catalog.  This includes two films Cantor made with Goldwyn.


Always smart, Goldwyn was known for writing out big checks to get the projects he wanted, making him one of the biggest producers of the classic Hollywood period and these two films are no exception.


Thornton Freeland’s Whoopee (1930) was an all-out spectacular musical comedy, especially for its time.  Goldwyn co-produced the film with Florenz Ziegfeld himself, has choreography by the legendary Busby Berkeley and it would be the only film Goldwyn would ever produce in the then-new two-strip Technicolor process, but one of the only films of any kind to use the format for the entire length of the film.  Cantor is a hypochondriac Western Sheriff who confuses everyone including himself trying to get with a gal he likes and not drive everyone else nuts in the process.


From Cantor in black face to Hollywood “Indians” and other political incorrectness, this still remains a remarkable piece of filmmaking, even if it is all over the place and has more moments that work than actually working in its entirety.  He sings “Making Whoopee” and “My Baby Just Cares For Me” plus Betty Grable, Paulette Goddard, Virginia Bruce & Ann Sothern can be seen here dancing as “Goldwyn Girl” before they became named.  Even a young Dean Jagger shows up. 


Needless to say the film was a big success as Cantor continued to be one of the biggest names in the business.  Thus he reteamed with Goldwyn and Sothern as his co-star in Roy Del Ruth’s Kid Millions (1934) which is a musical, an early screwball comedy and even has some fantasy elements.  Cantor is a guy trying to help local kids with little money to have a future by getting them to play music and even form an orchestra group of sorts (some of the actors are from the Our Gang/Little Rascals series looking very much as they did in those shorts including Tommy Bond and Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard) when he might just be inheriting a fortune from his father who struck it rich in The Middle East by finding treasure unexpectedly.


Dad is dead of course, but he is not totally aware of the situation and an opportunist (Ethel Merman, whose opening singing number “An Earful Of Music” at a music store in NYC is great) and her male friend plan to scheme him, but they are not the only ones.  Eventually they all have to go to the Middle East (look out for the politically incorrect Arab characters and Cantor once again in black face, but the real unexpected howler are dancing gals (non-Arab) wearing hats with crescent moons on them!  The film is madness and works better than Whoopee because it has a more consistent, coherent narrative.  Other songs include “When My Ship Comes In”, “Okay, Toots” and “Ice Cream Fantasy”.


Edgar Kennedy, a master of the slow burn, is among the cast with brother Jack, The Nicholas Brothers show up very young tap dancing throughout, Goldwyn Girl Paulette Goddard is joined by an unknown Lucille Ball and Tor Johnson shows up as a torturer!


The final sequence (directed by Willy Pogany and lensed by Rat Rennahan) is a great three-strip Technicolor finale that tops off the film well set in a food factory and has to be seen to be believed.  It is great and makes up for the flaws of the film.  Any serious film fans needs to catch up with this one.

Neither disc offers any extras, though they should have something.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Funny Girl is a new 4K HD transfer from the original camera materials.  In its original release, Columbia issued 70mm blow-up prints as well as 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints helping it become one of the biggest films of the year and musicals of that decade.  In 2001, it was one of a handful of lucky films to be reissued in new 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor in the last year of that revival that started in 1997.  Save a few brief shots, the materials were first generation and this new 4K version is just like those prints.


Color is often terrific and there are plenty of moments where it is very effective, but there are parts and moments where the color is not as wide-ranging as the real Technicolor version from 12 years ago.  Otherwise, this looks great and you even get some demo shots for serious HD and Ultra HD presentation.  Director of Photography Harry Stradling Sr. (Easter Parade, The Pirate, My Fair Lady, Johnny Guitar, A Streetcar Named Desire, Auntie Mame, Gypsy) was an expert in color filming when he took on this project and Streisand was so happy with him that she had him lens her next three films: Hello, Dolly! (in Todd-AO 70mm) On A Clear Day You Can See Forever and The Owl & The Pussycat.   This Blu-ray looks better than the one for Lady, but is not as consistent as Gypsy (both reviewed elsewhere on this site) but since Columbia and Sony have taken care of the film so well, it looks as good as it is going to (save my minor color issue) and you can really appreciate the use of the real anamorphic 35mm Panavision widescreen work done here.


The 1.33 X 1 image on both Cantor films can show their age, but Whoopee has bleeding color that is not always aligned properly.  Its two-strip Technicolor needs some work here, but there are still some good shots and it had three cameramen in Lee Garmes, Ray Rennahan and Gregg Toland.  Kid Millions has a pretty good black and white print (shot by DP Ray June) and the finale in three-strip Technicolor (when you had to shoot three black and whiter strips at the same time with different color filters versus Funny Girl, where yo9u take color film and split it into those colors) (lensed by Rennahan as noted above) looks really good.



The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.0 lossless mix on Funny Girl is towards the front speakers and is an upgraded mix further refined from its 2001 Dolby/DTS/SDDS theatrical sound reissue.  From its 70mm blow-up prints, this was a film originally designed for 6-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects, but as was the case with the 2001 mix, the dialogue and other sound is sometimes too much in the center channel as well except when the music kicks in.  The score was recorded separately (Streisand hated lip-syncing and sings the final song live) from the rest of the film, so like all musicals up to the 1980s (including Grease in 1978), the fidelity drops to show the films age when a music number is not happening.


Fortunately, the music is the highlight and sounds great.  The lossless audio shows off just how good Streisand’s early singing was (see more Streisand elsewhere on this site).  However, there are moments where the sound gets compressed and distorted in parts and could not be corrected, but this is rare.


The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on both Cantor films are on an even par, sounding good for their age with the expected fidelity limits.  Merman sounds best between the two films, though.



To order Whoopee and Kid Millions, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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